21 places to declutter

(+ 4 principles for doing it)

You vow to get organized this year.

Reduce clutter. Clean up those cramp spaces. Find things when you need them. It’s January, and that’s always a great time to reorganize and reduce.

The problem is knowing where and how. I’m going to give you 21 places to reorganize or declutter. And I’ll give you 4 simple principles for reducing clutter.

Why is that important? Because–

  • Things don’t make you ultimately happy (that’s why we keep buying more)
  • Clutter creates stress and disharmony (but fear makes us hang on to things)
  • You can’t find anything if you hang on to everything

As a self-appointed Junk Whisperer and avid RE person (re-organizer/re-decorater/re-inventor/refinisher/re-arranger), let me say you will feel more peaceful when you reduce the clutter in your life.

Four Simple Principles for Decluttering:

  • Something in, something out.
  • Don’t use it, don’t keep it.
  • Has value, spotlight it.
  • Don’t need it, share it.

Use these 4 principles for deciding what to keep and what to throw. Once you get into it, you won’t want to stop. Decluttering is revitalizing!

21 Places you can declutter

1–File papers, bills, letters, kids’ art: keep 1) temporarily, like in a bin or wall rack in the kitchen 2) permanently, like in a file cabinet or lidded tubs in attic. Just keep what you need for taxes and warrantees. Has value: keep it where you can find it. If not, chuck it.

2–Clothes: in your closets, drawers, trunks. I donate or sell a clothing item every time I buy a new one. Honestly, we tend to wear what’s new, anyway. I continually purge my drawers and closet of things I haven’t worn lately. (It’s easier to cull clothing when you’re hanging up something new.) Just make the switch. And don’t keep clothes that no longer fit; if you lose weight, treat yourself with something new. All those can’t-wear items aren’t helping your self-image anyway.

3–Names, addresses, photos, home videos: digitize. Organize names (handymen, friends, family, Christmas card lists). Put receipts on digital files. Digitize your home videos and photos and give copies to your family members. Throw away orginals. This is hard for anybody over 45.

4–Cabinets and countertops: eliminate decorative clutter, paper piles, and appliances you aren’t using daily. Find room in your kitchen drawers for all the things on your counters. If your kitchen is small and/or your cabinets are full, remove everything from your kitchen that you aren’t using regularly. Keep miscellaneous appliances somewhere else or get rid of them. We typically only use what’s easy to reach.

Generally, the catch-all cabinet. This is a good day.

5–Basement and attic: this is the place where big junk goes to die. If you don’t have a seasonal or regular use for something, donate it or sell it. Reduce memorabilia to a basic level. A lot of stuff you’re saving for posterity won’t mean anything to the generations after you. It’s sad but true. And nobody uses old exercise equipment.

The seasonal decor section of my attic.

6–Linens: you only need a few sets of towels and sheets. Eliminate those partial-sets that you never use or send them to college with your kids (that goes for a lot of old stuff). Organizing linens into bins or baskets also keeps your pantry shelves neat and tidy and makes differentiating between sheet sizes much easier. (All mattress pads and blankets look the same to me.)

The linen closet. Big bedding is in another closet.
another bathroom, making use of a small bookcase and a small space

7–Kids’ stuff: the black hole of sorting. Kids only wear what’s on the top of the drawer anyway. Reduce their clothing to the things that fit, are presentable, are liked, and are newer. Everything else can go. Of course, you might have to make allowances for those embarrassingly faded Star Wars or princess t-shirts; give choices about what your kids can keep and what you’re allowed to throw. Then do it while they’re at school.

8–Car: vacuum and throw away trash regularly. There is really very little we need to drive around with in our cars.

9–Thrown-aside clothing: I’m talking about the pile of shoes in the hallway, the coats on the banister, the keys on the table, the sweatpants on the bedpost, the afghan on the floor. Yes, somethings are going to be taken off and put right back on. These are the things that turn us into nags. The best solution are wall hooks or floor baskets. Training people to use them is another hurdle but one more easily accomplished than expecting them to turn into Mr. Rogers.

I made this rack from an old twin headboard I had in the attic. It catches all my husband’s not-quite-dirty clothes.

10–Drawers: in the bathroom, kitchen, desks, dressers. Organize little items into small plastic bins. Throw away all the crap nobody uses. (How many pens and rubber bands are really necessary?)

11–Office supplies & junk drawers: try to collect and organize supplies into one known location. Nobody every knows where scissors, tape, or batteries are, no matter how many times you show them, but it’s nice at least for you to know where they are supposed to be. I think perhaps a video tutorial is in order for the members of your household.

Here’s a tutorial I made so my family can find the tape and scissors. Apparently, I’ve hidden them for 30 years.

12–Medicine and vitamins: throw out expired and neglected meds, vitamins, and supplements. We really stop taking most of these over time. Keep what you actually take; the other bottles are making it harder to find what you want.

13–Cleaning supplies: same rule here. Throw out what you don’t use, and don’t stock up. We’re never going to experience a cleaning supply ration. You can get that next bottle of Windex anytime, anywhere. TP is the exception to this rule.

14–Garage: this is a great place to find items for sale because everyone thinks they need another weed-wacker or industrial strength extension cord. Seriously, throw away the broken seed-spreader and lawn mower and all those almost-empty cans of sprays, varnishes, and paints. Only keep paint that’s still on a wall in your house. Only keep tools you use. Organize with shelves, hooks, drawers, and bins. Sweep it out. Park your car in it. There’s a novel idea.

15–Purse: do this every week. Keep coupons in a special pouch or bag because they get torn to shreds in your purse. Throw out old lipsticks. Try to reduce credit cards. Download apps for stores and restaurants where you have savings cards or coupons because it eliminates the need to carry around another card. Try carrying a smaller purse to find out what you actually need with you all the time. It’s probably a lot less than you think.

16–Books and magazines: Throw away old magazines; if you haven’t read it by the time the next one comes, you aren’t going to. Same goes for books. Sell or donate books you didn’t like or won’t read again. If you collect books—like me—organize them onto shelves and know why you’re keeping them. Otherwise, the book fettish gets out of hand.

my office, in an adorable she-shed

17–Decor: knick-knacks, ornamental dishes, throw pillows, candles, whatever is in style at the moment. If you like current decorating trends, purge your house of old décor. If you like to decorate with all the little things people buy you, you will have to prioritize what to keep and eventually donate the rest, or your home will look like a pawn shop in no time. Collections and collectibles are tricky because it’s difficult to display a collection without creating a busy, cluttered space. Choose collections carefully and place them in a room where they are the focal point (meaning everything else should be neutral or simple). It’s also okay to purge a collection; you can sell it or donate it. Just because you have treasured something, it doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever.

18–Pictures: like knick-knacks, they can overtake your decorating. Display art in groupings (for small, coordinated pictures) or alone (for large pictures), keeping the space around them uncluttered. Family pictures are great in groupings with one another or small décor. A room with no available wall space feels cramped and cluttered. Make sure you have wall space around your pictures and windows. I rotate pictures because I have more than I can use at one time. Also, over time, the color on pictures fades; that’s the signal to pitch.

I keep extra pictures and mirrors here in my attic.

19–Make-up and toiletries: you’ve probably bought a lot of items to try and didn’t like them. Throw them out. When you store too much, you can’t find what you want, and you end up buying more, which perpetuates the problem. Reduce your regime to a few bottles and tubes and try to organize items into drawers with dividers. Nobody needs 20 bottles on their sink counter or 5 different electrical wires hanging down the side of the cabinet.

Stairs are great places for family picture groupings

20–Electronics: all those chargers and extra cords and batteries have to go somewhere. If you can create a charging station (in a drawer would be magnificent!), you reduce the number of chargers hanging throughout your house. Hang a shoe organizer inside a closet to keep all the little accessories and cords neatly divided into one place.

cluttered area
charging cords, window scrapers, batteries, selfie-stick, lots of stuff I have no idea what it is (need to work on this area, but at least it’s out of the way)

21–Shoes: nobody needs 10 pairs of black shoes or 12 kinds of tennis shoes, but we have them. If you need a new running shoe, throw out an old pair. Use shelves, shoe hangers, shoe racks, bins or baskets to keep your shoes from forming a giant pile on your closet floor. Cut foam noodles into pieces to place inside your boots to keep them from folding in half.

We all want peace and organization for the new year. What better way to start than taking control of your out-of-control places?

  • Something in, something out.
  • Don’t use it, don’t keep it.
  • Has value, spotlight it.
  • Don’t need it, share it.

Leave your advice and pictures here for organizing so we can all benefit from your ideas. There’s more than one way to de-clutter.

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